Fulbright in Portugal

Steve Doig in Lisbon August-December 2010

Lisbon skyline

Riding the rails

I’ve mastered Metro, Lisbon’s impressive subway system. That’s harder than it sounds because there was a small song-and-dance to learn in figuring out how to pay the fare and get through the gates. Carla Silva, our Fulbright Commission guardian angel, had helped us use the fare card machines a couple of days ago. But I flew solo this morning because I had to travel to the big Vasco de Gama mall at Oriente to get some necessary computer items. It felt like Peewee’s Big Adventure to me, but I got there and back, even changing from the Verde line to the Vermelha line, without a problem.

The Metro system here really is wonderful. Unlike the dingy, littered subways of New York or the stark concrete caverns of Washington’s stations, the Lisbon Metro is bright, utterly clean and truly rapid transit. Grafitti is a problem around the city, but not on the subways, at least on the stations I have visited. Indeed, each station is decorated with artistic tile murals. And the trains are frequent and comfortable. The only trick is remembering to pay attention to the stops because the trains stop for only about 10 seconds to let passengers off and on; if you dawdle, you’re off to the next stop.

My next task is to figure out the right buses to take to places not reached by the Metro. The map of the bus system is more complicated than the wiring diagram of a color tv. Happily, today I found Bus 737, which climbs from the Praça da Figueira square in the heart of the city up to Castelo Sao Jorge above our apartment. I don’t mind the 10-minute walk down the twisty stone stairs and tight passageways to the bottom of our hill, but walking back up would be a real grind. Bus 737, small enough to negotiate those impossibly narrow alleys up the hill, drops me a couple hundred meters from the apartment. It’s a leg- and lung-saving bargain at .85 euros.

3 Responses to “Riding the rails”

  1. August 24th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Ana Martins says:

    Welcome to Portugal! Lisbon is great, but if you don’t mind, I’d suggest you’d visit Porto, 300 km north of Lisbon (2h and half by car; 3h by train).You may know it as the city where the famous oporto wine is sold!

    Check this out: http://oportocool.wordpress.com/, maybe this will interest you!

    Hope you have a wonderful stay here at Portugal!
    Best wishes,
    Ana Martins

  2. August 24th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Steve Doig says:

    Thanks for the welcome! I certainly plan to visit Oporto and other parts of Portugal, as well. The Fulbright Commission will be setting up opportunities for me to visit universities and newsrooms around the country. When I know more about those plans, I’ll post them here. If you get a chance to come to one of those, please introduce yourself. I look forward to meeting you.

  3. August 24th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Ana Martins says:

    I’ll keep this blog under my radar!If you come to Porto, I’ll surely try to be there. I’m a psychologist, but I love journalism. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply